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The federal government yesterday said it was “in a fix” on how to speedily resolve the lingering dispute between it and the members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU).
The Minister for Education, Nyesom Wike, made the confession at a meeting between the House of Representatives Committee on Education.
He minister said the major issue pitting the two parties against each other was the refusal of the unions to accept the proposal of the government to pay them the outstanding N40 billion, being arrears owed them.
“We are now in a fix. We are now trying to resolve the issue with salaries and wages commission,” he said, expressing confidence, however that the issue would soon be resolved.
According to him, he “took a risk that I’ve never taken in life” by summoning a meeting with ASUP where he proposed the payment of the outstanding arrears in installments.
“I asked that we solve the major issues. They said there were arrears of N20 billion
COEASU and N20 billion for ASUP.
“I asked the Permanent Secretary to write a memo on how it would be paid. I made a memo to Mr. President that I have made the offer. They now wrote a letter back that they are not accepting the proposal.”
The minister said just as the unions kicked against his proposal, the wages and salaries commission wrote a letter also rejecting the proposal thereby compounding the situation.
He said: “Government is not sleeping on the issue,” adding that it was nobody’s desire to see schools closed down for almost a year. “People should know that what we are trying to do is not personal. Nobody wants children to stay at home. The matter started with the former minister.”
The minister, who revealed that a committee to bridge the gap between polytechnic and university certificates is currently working said the government had to stop paying the salaries of polytechnic lecturers after they had been paid from October 2013 to February 2014 without working.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Education, Hon. Aminu Suleiman (APC Kano) said the committee had to summon the meeting because of the need to find a speedy resolution to the crisis which was almost a year old.
Recall that a representative of the Minister of Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, Mr. McJohn Nwaobiala, has told the House Committee on Education at an earlier date that the salary arrears of polytechnic staff, which is one of their demands, was not captured in the 2014 budget.